CVS has been kind of killing it lately. They were the first national pharmacy to end the sale of tobacco, then they partnered with Korean beauty leader Peach & Lily on a curated selection of K-beauty products. And now, they are banning photoshop from their beauty campaigns.
In a huge move, CVS announced that they will stop altering images in their beauty campaigns, and will also encourage partnering beauty brands to do so as well. Meaning, they will no longer change or enhance a person’s size, shape, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics in imagery created for their stores, websites, social media and marketing materials, all in an effort to lead positive change around transparency in beauty.
Why does that matter? Well, for starters, consumers aren’t great at telling whether an image has been photoshopped or altered. In a recent study, participants could tell if an image was altered only 60 percent of the time.
Secondly, when a customer in a store, online, or in a magazine sees an image of a person (usually altered), the message and image behind it sticks—especially with young women and children. “Women and girls compare themselves to these images every day,” author and ad critic Jean Kilbourne told an audience at Harvard in 2015. “And failure to live up to them is inevitable because they are based on a flawlessness that doesn’t exist.” That translates, as CVS reports, to 80 percent of women feeling worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad.
“The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established,” said Helena Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy and Executive Vice President, CVS Health. “As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”
This commitment to representing true, diverse imagery will be showcased beginning in April, via a watermark. To indicate a photo’s authenticity, CVS will start putting a “CVS Beauty Mark” label (as seen on the top right of the above image) on images that haven’t been significantly retouched, with the goal of all images in the beauty sections of CVS stores reflecting transparency by the end of 2020.
On that young women and girls note, CVS is partnering with Girls Inc.—the national nonprofit dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold—to help support positive body image and self esteem. “Girls Inc. applauds CVS Pharmacy’s leadership commitment to showcase and celebrate beauty in all of its forms,” said Judy Vredenburgh, Girls Inc. President and CEO. “Allowing diversity and natural beauty to shine will have an immensely positive impact on girls and women everywhere.”
While this is incredibly impressive, especially because of the sheer number of CVS stores—with over 9,700 and counting—other brands have helped clear the (unretouched) path beforehand. Make Up For Ever released the first unretouched ad in 2011. Aerie, American Eagle’s sister store for lingerie, started featuring unairbrushed models in their ad campaigns starting in 2014. Modcloth was the first retailer to sign an anti-Photoshop pledge in 2014. Last year, Target started the swim season with totally Photoshop-free ads, showcasing women in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And Dove’s #RealBeauty campaign has been going strong for over 10 years, and last year had Mario Testino shoot 32 real women, all unretouched.
Yet just another reason to love CVS and drugstore beauty then.
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